When I first realized that the new New York State assessments would require knowledge of historical thinking skills four years ago, I was honestly excited. Rote memorization had never made me fulfilled as a history teacher. I’ve always preferred to teach my students to think, and I was happy that I would now be teaching them to think about history.
As I’ve become more involved in the teaching community, I’ve noticed a growing tendency towards turning history into a series of craft projects. This issue has been very well documented by Jennifer Gonzalez (Cult of Pedagogy) in an article titled “Is Your Lesson a Grecian Urn?”
As a Social Studies teacher, I’m obsessed with having my students think critically about the topic of History. Still, it’s difficult to have students think critically without some background knowledge. Therefore, I’ve taken on the task of making sure that my students gain background knowledge with a variety of activities and tasks. It has been a process for me to develop those strategies. I thought I might share some of those strategies here to inspire you to think about the classroom experience for your students.
I absolutely love listening to podcasts in my spare time. It’s an easy way to delve in to history topics I know little about, and it provides an alternative to reading. I can listen to a podcast on my morning walk with the dog, or when I’m cleaning up a garden bed. History podcasts often focus on forgotten history, or smaller stories that are missed by textbooks or survey courses, and they help me to make connections in my own understanding.